Dry your eyes; it’s time to move on

By Gus Bode

Now that you’ve had a chance to wipe those salty tears from your eyes following the SIU men’s basketball team’s horrid second half in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, it’s time to move on.

Tamarr Maclin and grizzly Southwest Missouri State – or just Missouri State, or whatever the school’s new name will be – did the nearly impossible by coming back from an MVC tourney record 23-point deficit. SMS also left all of Carbondale with clinched fists and nothing to do Monday night, crying along with Maclin following the Bears’ championship loss to Creighton.

Take a deep breath, dear Saluki fans; it’s not the catastrophic end of the world.


It was just the end of the Salukis in MVC play. And during Sunday’s heartbreaking, stomach-wrenching, clock-burning, non-shot-hitting second half, a few red flags popped up.

First of all, the SIU big men need to step it up now or never.

If the behemoth from SMS can score 19 points and grab 13 rebounds, just think what the best big men in the nation could do to Randal Falker, Josh Warren and the gang. Even the asthma-prone Nick Smith of the Fighting Illini could have a career day if the Salukis rebound and defend like they did in the second half against SMS.

SIU’s brutes need to play bigger, much bigger, if the Salukis have any hopes of moving on past the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Salukis must have been mentally and physically drained following the shoot-the-lights-out first half. When SIU stepped onto the floor following halftime, it appeared that someone had replaced those stylish Nike Shox Team Elites with lead-filled boots.

The tenacity and fire that torched Barry Hinson’s Bears for 42 points in the first half was left in the locker room. In the first half, the Salukis looked like a rabid Wichita State fan, a school that brought quite the load of rude fans to the St. Louis area.

SIU ended the game like an anemic Indiana State fan.


Not to take anything away from SMS – they are a good team and worthy of a trip to the dance, or the NIT, rather – but the Bears were a team that could have been put away.

Now is the worst time of the season to get complacent with a huge lead.

SIU still has an amazingly talented team that could potentially make a run in the NCAA Tournament. They just need to figure out a few things – like how to beat a zone defense – and need anyone over 6 foot 5 to play like it.

The Salukis’ loss, however, was the Valley’s gain. After the Salukis dropped out of the picture, the MVC gained a chance to get two or maybe three teams into the Big Dance. A couple of Valley teams will make it into the NIT as well, but who cares about the Bush League of post-season tournaments.

The semifinals loss could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Salukis. If they can learn from their mistakes, respond accordingly and figure out how to get back to their winning ways. Saluki fans will be dancing like Hinson was on the sidelines during Sunday’s second half.

If not, the next loss for the Saluki seniors will be their last in a maroon and white uniform. They’ve had a great run, but it’s not over.